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Humility and Better Programming, Six Years Later

Photo of Edsger Wybe Dijkstra

Here’s everything you need to know about my software development philosophy:

“The competent programmer is fully aware of the strictly limited size of his own skull; therefore he approaches the programming task in full humility, and among other things he avoids clever tricks like the plague.”

– Edsger W. Dijkstra, The Humble Programmer, ACM Turing Lecture 1972

Edsger Wybe Dijkstra

Six years ago, I wrote a series of articles about being a humble programmer, based on the ideas of some really smart people, like Dr. Dijkstra. The articles have gotten a lot of views and positive comments, and I think they’re still relevant reading today.

I wrote them back when I worked at National Instruments. I had a blog called (I saved all that content. It’s now at, and the old hostname redirects there.) My colleague, Nancy, and I wrote several articles about our world of helping people develop better software.

We both find that helping developers be more successful is fun and rewarding. That’s why I created Stravaro.

Anyway, back to the old blog series–there’s almost nothing I would change if I were writing it today. It feels just as relevant as when I wrote it. Even though the articles were written with the LabVIEW developer in mind, I believe it’s a philosophy that should be followed regardless of programming language. When I worked at athenahealth, I gave a presentation on the same theme at an internal technical conference.

If you haven’t read the series, I invite you to do so now. Do any of you have a similar philosophy that’s worked well? Or a radically different one? Leave a reply below to share your thoughts.

“Every person that you meet knows something you don’t; learn from them.”

– H. Jackson Brown Jr.

“The greatest lesson in life is to know that even fools are right sometimes.” 

– Winston Churchill
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